Human rights code amended to better protect trans community

TRUSU’s LGBTQ advocacy representative weighs in on recently added protections

The announcement was made on July 20, 2016 by Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, MLA for Vancouver-West End, Spencer Chandra Herbert and MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, Jane Thornthwaite. (B.C. Government)

The announcement was made on July 20, 2016 by Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, MLA for
Vancouver-West End, Spencer Chandra Herbert and MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, Jane
Thornthwaite. (B.C. Government)

It’s been years of work for the LGBTQ community, but progress has been made. On Monday, July 25, the B.C. provincial government introduced legislation to amend the Human Rights Code to explicitly include protections for gender identity and expression. Effectively, the bill will ensure that members of the LGBTQ cannot be discriminated against based on these factors.

Previously, the government had argued that this protection was already in place, and that there didn’t need to be explicit expression within the Human Rights Code.

“It’s been something that I, and a lot of other people, have been waiting for for a long time,” said TRUSU LGBTQ representative Caitlin Orteza.

“Trans people are one of the most targeted groups out there. They experience violence at much higher rates than other people. For there to be equality there has to be equity first and we have to acknowledge them to make sure that everyone is protected under the law in the exact same way.”

Acknowledgement was something that played a role in another recent event that marks progress in LGBTQ rights, with the City of Kamloops opening a gender-neutral washroom in Riverside Park. The $120,000 washroom, funded in part by a federal accessibility grant, opened on July 15.

“It is definitely a statement, politically, for Kamloops to have this gender-neutral washroom, rather than it just be another unisex bathroom. It’s something that was wanted by the trans community,” Orteza said.

“For people who aren’t being acknowledged, and for people who don’t feel safe using bathrooms that are for a specific gender, I imagine it feels really nice to be acknowledged and to have that safe space.”

Orteza said that along with further acknowledgement of the trans community, she would also like to see more investment in community education and data collection so that problems those in the trans community are facing can be addressed.

In the fall, Orteza plans on working to bring gender neutral washrooms to campus – something past LGBTQ representatives have tried to do as well.